The National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) Minneapolis and St. Paul Chapters are partnering with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Locals 292 in Minneapolis, 343 in Rochester, and 110 in St. Paul to bring Girl Scouts fun, hands-on electrical trades experiences.
“We are always seeking outreach opportunities in our Minneapolis, St. Paul and greater Minnesota communities that encourage participation in our trades programs,” said Kristin Causby, Assistant Executive Director of NECA’s Minneapolis Chapter. “Women play a critical role in our industry, but they are often underrepresented in the trades; moreover the option to pursue a career in construction was never presented to them growing up as a viable career option.”
Both NECA and the Construction Careers Foundation are leading efforts to provide construction experiences and recruit women and members of minority and immigrant groups who historically have been underrepresented in the construction industry, to learn about careers in Minnesota’s construction industry and apply for apprenticeship.
To do this, NECA and the Construction Careers Foundation have developed and hosted programs that partner directly with schools and other youth-focused organizations to provide hands-on construction learning opportunities.
Power Girls Program Empowers Young Girls to Envision Themselves as Builders
“In the summer of 2021, NECA supported ‘Power Girls’ an event that gave members of the Girl Scouts of the River Valley a chance to practice various construction trade skills, learn from female mentors, and see themselves in trades careers,” Causby said.
Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin River Valleys (also known as “GSRV,” “River Valleys,” or “council”) is one of 111 Girl Scout councils in the United States. It serves 25,400 girls in southern Minnesota, western Wisconsin, and one county in Iowa, and is supported by more than 9,000 volunteers.
After the ‘Power Girls’ experience, NECA developed its own electrical trades event and partnered with the Girl Scouts of the River Valley to give more than 60 participants a tour of the IBEW Local 110 JATC and showcase the environment electrical apprentices get to learn in. The Girl Scouts also participated in a hands-on project connecting power from a switch to a light bulb, and a receptacle.
“Nine Local 110 female apprentices took the lead on these projects and proved to the Girls Scouts how successful females can be in the electrical trades,” Causby said. “It’s that face-to-face time with a real woman in construction that’s really inspiring for the young girls to learn from and look up to.”
NECA Supplies Engagement Opportunities For Girls Through the Pandemic
“We also hosted a number of virtual events, where we sent LED flashlight build projects to participants’ homes,” Causby said. “From a distance, the events were successful ways to engage with a younger audience and gave students an exciting new project to look forward to while they were adjusting to online school.”
Additional projects supplied by NECA to students included at-home safety activities and stories about a day in the life of an electrician.
Women Apprentices Serve as Construction Mentors to Young Girls
NECA’s most recent outreach event kicked off Women In Construction Week in March. The Minneapolis and St. Paul NECA Chapters sponsored 20 Girl Scouts of the River Valley at the Minnesota Statewide Limited Energy JATC’s Fridley training center.
Scouts were paired with apprentices and journey-workers for a few hands-on activities, such as terminating and testing patch cords and installing and testing fire alarm devices.
“We sent a request for volunteers out to IBEW female apprentices,” said Andrew Colvard, Assistant Executive Director of St. Paul’s NECA Chapter. “We had more than 16 apprentices and journeyworkers registered to volunteer and many followed up to get their names on the list for the next opportunity.”
Colvard said the JATCs have always been supportive of spreading the word for volunteer events but the reception for girls in construction events has exceeded expectations.
“A lot of women in the apprenticeship program want to be mentors because they feel that if they had this experience earlier it would have changed their lives and career trajectory,” Colvard said. “Many of our tradeswomen join the union as a second career or after they have already graduated college and spent time in the workforce; joining a union to pursue construction fulltime is often a calling they wished they knew about earlier.”
“Since many schools started removing shop and construction classes, our apprentices are passionate about mentoring all students interested in the trades,” Colvard added.
Similar Programs Offered by Construction Careers Foundation
The Construction Careers Foundation provides work-based learning opportunities starting in middle school and all the way through high school, along with a trades navigator resource to guide students through the apprenticeship process with the goal of recruiting students to careers in Minnesota’s construction industry.
The 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization conducts programming with the goal to increase the diversity of entrants into the construction trades, starting by empowering youth to explore careers in the building trades from an early age.
Two of the Construction Careers Foundation’s programs are 1.) The Minnesota Trades Academy, a paid summer construction internship experience for selected Twin Cities area high school youth. 2.) Learn2Build: An experience that provides construction career exposure for middle school youth through activity kits and hands on events such as construction camps and after school programming.
“Like NECA, we’re providing young people with an opportunity to experience working with tools – maybe even for the first time,” said Mary Stuart, associate director for the Construction Careers Foundation. “Opportunities to host girls and pair them with women working real jobs in Minnesota’s construction is an inspiring and empowering mentorship combination.”
“We’re erasing the blue collar stigma associated with construction and turning a page in the future of equitable employment for women in the field,” Causby added.
Electrical contractors in need of well-educated, talented young people to oversee current projects and plan for future growth are advised to look to the NECA Student Chapter program.
NECA is a national trade association with 120 chapters in the United States and 10 international chapters.
NECA’s Minneapolis and St. Paul chapters plan to host four events each year to introduce youth to Minnesota’s electrical trades. To volunteer with NECA or learn more about upcoming events visit St Paul NECA at http://www.stpaulneca.org/ or Minneapolis NECA at https://www.mplsneca.org/ or contact Kristin Causby at firstname.lastname@example.org or Andrew Colvard at email@example.com.